By Stan Justice
Photos by Kaye Robinson
Richardson Highway, southeast of Fairbanks
Years ago many a mountaineering adventure used this access route to enter the mountains, but the popularity of recreational snowmachining has driven mountaineers to quieter areas. From the north, go over the gentle Isabel Pass and pass the Richardson Monument, then turn left on the gravel road at mile post 197.5. If coming from the south, pass Summit Lake and at the end of a 2 mile straight-a-way look for a gravel road on the right.
In the winter the road may be snowed in adding four miles to your approach. During construction of the pipeline the first mile of the road was improved and a large pad housed Isabel Camp. Every April the pad becomes Alaska’s third largest city with 10,000 snowmachiners gathered for the Arctic Man competition which pairs a downhill ski racer with a powerful snowmachine for a thrilling event.
In the summer you can drive four miles up the road if your vehicle has some ground clearance (Subaru or better type road). As you bounce along the road the spires called the Hoodoos will be up to the right, an interesting destination in themselves. The road comes to the riverbed and ends. There are numerous camping possibilities.
If you are headed for the College Glacier turn right and follow the first creek you come to, the creek with the suspension bridge.
To get to the Gulkana Glacier cross the suspension bridge and follow the trail two miles until the trail peters out. Route find another mile to get on the Gulkana Glacier ice. In 2015 a vigorous outflow creek blocked direct access forcing parties to traverse over unstable moraine until they could get on the glacier tongue.
The Gulkana Glacier is an excellent summer destination to experience the many features of glaciers. In this one small area you can find moulons, crevasses, an ice fall, medial moraines, trim lines, surface creeks, outflow creeks, conical sand piles, etc.